EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 263 - May 16, 2010 - ISSN 1528-6703     2 of 7

EveryPlaceISell Merchant Profile: The Crabby Nook

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AuctionBytes-Update regularly features multi-channel merchants in our "EveryPlaceISell Merchant Profile" series. To find out how you can be featured, go here.

Brenda Sanford took her love of Asian art and her experience selling online and turned it into a successful full-time business. This retired police officer started selling in 1999, when she and her sisters began buying out estate sales and selling the items on eBay.

In 2005, Brenda launched her own site, TheCrabbyNookGarden.com after her sales began slowing on eBay. Her goal was to move completely away from sites such as eBay. "I only answer to me on what I want to put on the website," Brenda said.

She now runs The Crabby Nook and River City Market selling Asian, African and Holy Land items on Amazon, eBay, Bonanzle, eCrater.

Brenda has shown she is not afraid to try new things - in launching her own website five years ago and jumping in to Fulfillment by Amazon last year, they have paid off. Amazon and TheCrabbyNookGarden.com are the biggest source of revenue for her multi-channel business.

You can find The Crabby Nook and other online shops on the EveryPlaceISell.com merchant directory, and learn more about being featured in AuctionBytes on this page.


Name:
Brenda Sanford

Name of business:
The Crabby Nook / River City Market

Sells on:
eBay, Bonanzle, eCrater, Amazon, own website

Type of Inventory:
Ethnic art and collectibles. I used to sell primarily Asian Art because I love the history of their art. eBay became flooded with Asian sellers that some of the products offered are not the same kind of quality that I would offer. So, I added African and Holy Land items.

What are the unique challenges you face with the types of items you sell?
Some items are one of a kind and take hours photographing and writing descriptions. My sales decreased on eBay and I think it was because this type of buyer no longer shops eBay on a regular basis. I had to find other venues so my items could be found by customers who collect my line of inventory.

What are the pros and cons of each marketplace and venue?
eBay - Few shoppers/buyers. I can use my own template. Many of my customers prefer not to purchase on eBay.

Amazon - Very easy to list multiples. Has streamlined my business using FBA. Buyer trust. Fees are high.

eCrater - Easy to list inventory. Don't like the photo program. Lets me offer Google check-out. Great customers. No fees! I use different store names on eCrater.

Bonanzle - Easy to list. Love the photo program. Buying traffic is not as high as I would like. Love the personal customer service. I can offer Google check-out. Low fees. People here are genuinely friendly.

Website - Freedom. No fees except hosting and url renewals. My shopping cart that I purchased does not offer Google check-out.

When considering all the places you sell, which channels are most profitable?
Amazon, website and eCrater.

How does your revenue break out by channel (what percentage of sales come from each channel)?
Amazon = 70%, website = 20%, eCrater = 7%, Bonanzle = 3%

Which payment methods do you accept?
PayPal and Google Checkout.

What are the pros and cons of each payment method?
I like both. I like that PayPal puts the money directly into my account and I have access to it immediately. I like the ability to ship my orders through them. My account can be monitored online.

Google - Customers feel secure using a trusted company. Fees are reasonable. I don't like the fact that I have to wait for the money to be transferred and deposited into my business bank account. I don't like that shipping is not offered.

Amazon - Customer trust. I get a deposit of funds into my bank account every two weeks. Not readily available. No shipping program offered. Fees are taken out of my payment so I don't have to pay fees separately.

What software/service powers your website, and would you recommend it to others? Why or why not?
asp hosting. Sectorlink. I have been very happy with this hosting company.

Does it have a checkout system, is so, what do you use, and what do you like/dislike about it?
I purchase a shopping cart from CyberStrong. I dislike that it does not allow me to offer Google Checkout. It also does not allow more than one photo per listing. I have to use html code to show additional photos. It is very easy to use and has many modules I can add.

What did you pay to set it up, and what are the monthly costs of running it?
I don't have monthly costs because I purchased my shopping cart software outright. I pay hosting fees and url renewal fees to run my website.

How difficult was it to set up?
I paid someone to set it up for me initially.

How did you find the person to set up the system for you?
I found the company who designed my initial website and graphics by talking to other ecommerce store owners. I belong to a few online groups of successful internet sellers. We talk about the different venues we sell on, our challenges, what is successful for us, changes in law regarding online selling, what works and what does not. If we find a company that has been good for our business, we share this information. And, many of us will use the same companies. I like to see their work and get a personal recommendation from other store owners to use someone.

Do you have any thoughts on how you would go about evaluating shopping carts if you had to buy one today?
Five years ago, I did not know very much about developing a website. So, I hired someone to do it for me. Luckily, I found a company who understood my need to be independent. They originally had me host my website through GoDaddy. GoDaddy does offer a shopping cart you can add to your website, but, you pay a monthly rental fee to use it.

I was given several options of shopping carts available for purchase to use. I did not pick the cheapest, or, the most expensive. My company was relatively small and I wanted shipping modules, merchant account & PayPal module, cross-sell, inventory, Google base, newsletter, and, markdown modules. At the time, Google Checkout did not exist. I wanted a shopping cart that I could easily add product and photographs.

Today, if I were to purchase a new shopping cart software, I would definitely want to be able to offer Google Checkout. About 50% of my customers want to use Google Checkout.

I would like to have the ability to have separate account settings for my customers. I would like to have the ability to give discounts for purchases over a certain amount. And, I would like to have more than one photo capability. I would want the ability to have special keywords for search in my listings.

Today, I would probably select the MIVA shopping cart. Like the shopping cart software I own today, I can add different modules as I need them. MIVA does allow a merchant to have a Google Checkout module.

How did you create the logo/branding for your business/site?
I hired a graphics designer.

How do you differentiate yourself from others selling similar products?
I have custom pages telling the history, suggestions, etc.

How do you drive traffic to your listings, and which channel do you primarily drive traffic to?
Newsletters, postcard marketing and adwords for my website. Nothing on Amazon.

Can you talk about some of the SEO techniques you employ to drive traffic to your site(s)?
Keywords in titles, web pages and listing description. Meta tags and title tags.

Do you participate in social networking sites? If so, which ones?
Twitter and Facebook.

Which ones work for you? Which don't?
None.


Visit the Crabby Nook's listing on EveryPlaceISell.com for the links to all of her storefronts and websites. If you are a multi-channel merchant with your own website, you can learn more about being featured in AuctionBytes on this page.


About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.


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